The Workhouse, Southwell.
Maggy Milner’s recent project, a series of contemporary art installations in collaboration with the National Trust, is a response both, to the austere eerie and oppressive atmosphere of The Workhouse, and to the social history of the British Workhouse systems that were, at that time, the economic solution to deal with poor, the unemployed and venerable.
Many governments have grappled (and are still grappling) with the balancing act of how much, or how little state support should be given for those in need. This series of installations will also draw parallels with similar issues in society today.
Southwell’s Workhouse, built in 1824 was designed specifically as an institution for the poor and disadvantaged. Masterminded by Rev. Becher, the architecture, (influenced by prison design), required that inmates were given refuge, but also, that they experienced a harsh regime as a ‘fearful deterrent’.
This became the blueprint for the whole country. Becher’s philosophy of ‘Supervision, Classification and Segregation’ caused great humiliation and degradation for families, the unemployed and disadvantaged in the years to come. It has been described as a ‘fearful deterrent.
Maggy Milner’s work refers to Becher’s systems: to the demeaning repetitive drudgery, harsh regimentation and the ‘black and white’ rigid categorisations of workhouse inmates.